Honkers! The Pearl Of The Orient

 

 

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Hong Kong I suppose, for most sailors of the day, epitomised the orient, for it was still, until the early to mid 70's, a true 'British Colony'. Entering HK in the early hours of a foggy morning must have been extremely nerve racking for the Officer Of The Watch, sampans and junks littered the passage as you made your way through West Lamma and Lei Yu Mun Channel, rocky mountains and outcrops close on both port and starboard sides, huge radio dishes and arials looking down upon us, constantly monitoring communications traffic out of Red China.

 

China still in the middle of her cultural revolution, The Years Of The Hungry Tiger' and also a backer of communist North Vietnam. Like a subway at rush hour. Illegal immigrants (refugees from China's 'Great Leap Forward'), flooding into the colony. Running the guantlet in the 'snake boats' across shark infested Mirs Bay, life in the colony was to these and many chinese extremely harsh. In most cases in HK if you didn't talk money then you kept your mouth shut. Hong Kong consisted of two main areas for the Sailors recreation - Lockhart Road, Wanchai and across the harbour, Nathan Road, Kowloon.

 

Similar to Singapore, once berthed at HMS Tamar the RNers (personnel of the Royal Navy) would greet us and formally inform the Ship's Company of the latest 'Off Limits' areas and establishments, such as the infamous 'Roof Tops' of Wanchai and the 'Sampans' or 'Hoklo Boats' of Aberdeen. Often when visiting ports such as this the local Miltiary Police would arrive onboard and lecture the Ship's Company of all the 'Off Limits' bars and red light areas, then they would post a list of them, with their addresses on the main noticeboard - This just proved to be a handy ready reckoner for the sailors.

 

The 'side party' are then contracted and have started work even before the screws have stopped turning and we are doubled up. Suzie brings her 'goffa' box aboard and Annie is in a head-to-head with the Jimmy and The Buffer discussing jobs, deadlines and the state of the 'paint shop'. Annie is the 'Buffer' of the Chinese 'all girl' Side Party and she runs it with an iron fist. I have seen her on more than one occasion give a few Buffers a thorough dressing down in her comical high pitched 'pidgin' english.

 


Suzie Side Party greeting on arrival, on the wharf at HMS Tamar, complete with bouquet for the Jimmy. HMAS Derwent 1968.

 

The Officers commence organising their cocktail parties. The sailors get ready to pace themselves for a lengthy visit. The ship alters its 'routine' from Daily Harbour to Daily Harbour Tropical Routine. Tropcial Routine means wakey wakey is a couple of hours earlier than the normal 0640 call, and all non-duty hands would secure earlier at 1300, supposedly to escape the tropical midday heat. Personally I hated this for I liked to 'live' ashore and this meant that one didn't get alot of sleep and ran the acute risk of being 'adrift' in the mornings.

 


HMAS Derwent Alongside Inner North Arm HMS Tamar - USS Paul F Foster (DD964) berthed on the outer arm opposite

 

Take a postcard tour around HK as it was in 1972

 

“Up Top” in Hong Kong


HMAS Derwent - Berthed Inner North Arm - HMAS Tamar 1978

 

Left - Two of the more 'Up Market' and trendy type HK Disco's of the 60's & 70's. During this era discos, black lights and psychodelics etc was all the rage.

 

Wanchai was the 'sailor town' of Hong Kong and in its heyday a popular R&R Destination.. The US R&R Center was actually located in Wanchai at the end of Fenwick Street - On the Fenwick Pier. The walk from Tamar was about 20 Minutes, even less if the (back) Harcourt Road Gate was open.

 

The Royal Navy 'China Fleet Club' was often a great starting point for the 'All Rates Bar', on the corner of Arsenal Street and Cloucester Road, served pints of San Mig cheaper than anywhere else in HK.

 

The China Fleet Club also boasted a small bowling alley underneath, a silver service dining room on the top floor and a duty free shopping complex. It also had a reasonably good money change facility. Many navy functions were held in the fleet club, ship's parties, boxing championships and tombola nights, just to name a few. Cheap sailors accomodation was also avaiable.

A fairly popular bar for its day. Many bars were given US names to cater for the large numbers of US R&R Servicemen.

 

US Ships generally had to anchor in the Harbour, the RAN usually berthed alongside at HMS Tamar.

 

HK Bars were for many years populary chosen to host Ship's, Messdeck or Divisional parties and they did a grand job in catering for us until the R&R stopped, the money dwindled and the bars started going topless in an effort to boost revenue.

 

By the mid 70's and thereafter it became cost prohibitive.

An An Bar - One of the post R&R Bars, a little more ritzy. George Wong was a very well known bar owner and manager in Wanchai and was there right through the era, along with Linda of the 'Cave Bar' and 'New Ocean Bar' fame. These people excelled in their jos and were very astute at business. They could extract all of a sailor's money and make him feel good about doing it! The Chinese had us weighed off to a tee!

My base wage at this time was $22.00 per fortnight, plus $4.00 'Hard Lying Money' (Seagoing Allowance),

 

PLUS $14.00 Strategic Reserve Allowance. A princley sum of $40.00 per fortnight to live on. This is where the Tailors of HK used to help out. On 'off pay' week in HK we would seek out and visit Tailor's Shops. Everybody that visited HK always had a suit made and the Chinese tailors, being good businessmen, would, whilst you flipped through the books full of various sorts of material and ooooed and ahhhed, feed you beer! I never bought a suit!.

Larry King - little, bald, chuckling, rotund, Larry! Had his fingers in more pies in Wanchai than you could imagine, Bars, Restaurants, Tailors, you name it. Another astute businessman who new what the sailors wanted and how to give it to them.